JoNova

A science presenter, writer, speaker & former TV host; author of The Skeptic's Handbook (over 200,000 copies distributed & available in 15 languages).


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The Skeptics Handbook

Think it has been debunked? See here.

The Skeptics Handbook II

Climate Money Paper


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The nerds have the numbers on precious metals investments on the ASX



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Skin cells turned into cancer hunters: Let’s do less politically correct science and more real stuff

Why are we still wasting money trying to change the weather?

We’ve cracked the code to program biology and there are so many better things we can do. We can read the four letter alphabet, and now we’re in the early days of unpacking the operating systems. One team (below) has just reprogrammed skin cells to hunt down one particular type of brain cancer and found a way to get the cells to stick around long enough to deliver killer drug doses to the cancer cells. It’s at proof of concept stage — we can extend the life of mice with this cancer by about 200%, but we haven’t tried this in people. This may be years off, or not. Cancer is an information problem.

In one form or another this concept will change the world. Sooner or later we will figure out how to reprogram cells to seek out and destroy every last difficult-to-get cancer cell. No more mass collateral damage that kills healthy cells too. Then we’ll teach the immune system to stay alert and keep picking off any recidivists. No more recurrences.

This is just the beginning of customized, individualized medicine. Early days.

 

 Groundbreaking discovery made [...]

A good news moment – paralyzed man walks again with stem cell transplant

In case you’ve missed this — stem cells have been used to partially restore movement in a 38 year old man who had his spinal cord completely severed by a knife attack in 2010. The cells came  from his nose, and are technically olfactory ensheathing cells (OEC). They are unique cells — the only nerve fibres we know of that grow and make connections with the central nervous system. It’s no magic instant bullet, but a first step. It’s taken 19 months of intensive rehab after the transplant, but he is now able to drive. It’s not known if this procedure can help with paralysis caused by other, more messy causes of spinal breaks. The stab wound was a very clean cut.

It is almost 30 years since Prof. Geoffrey Raisman first identified the potential of OEC’s to repair nerve damage in mice. In November 2012 researchers in Edinburgh were able to restore a dogs ability to move hind legs.

Speaking earlier today Geoffrey Raisman described the results as “more impressive than man walking on the moon”. — speakingofresearch

There are at least three different methods of possibly curing paralysis which have all made announcements this year. In May [...]

Remarkable boost for immune systems after fasting

There’s a fascinating study out this week suggesting that if we fast for three or four days a couple of times a year we can regenerate white blood stem cells. Fasting cuts down the number of white blood cells during the fast, but afterwards they recover, and then some.

This new result comes from both mice and phase I clinical human trials.  Probably in paleolithic times, famine or at least hungry days were a part of nearly everyone’s life. Many different philosophies and religions have fasting traditions. Apparently our genes are selected to deal with that, and being short of food makes the immune system do a kind of efficiency sweep. Perhaps access to unnaturally continuous food stops our stem cells from reactivating?  Something to think about from Killjoy Jo. Yes, fasting is not exactly fun, but nor is cancer. For what it’s worth, the hard part of a fast is usually the start.

Obviously, consult your doc, do your own research, etc.

The NZ Herald

Fasting for three days can regenerate the entire immune system, even in the elderly, scientists have found in a breakthrough described as remarkable.

University of Southern California

Fasting triggers stem cell regeneration [...]

Abbott takes Jo’s plan: dumps renewables, pumps medical research

Three years ago I made the case for dumping renewables, and doubling medical research — and both occurred in last night’s budget. (Yes, I hear the cry that this is just more big-government funded bad-science, bear with me, I’ll get to that). First let me bask in the glory (wink). 

I’m especially proud of the Op-Ed I wrote in The Weekend Australian in May 2011.  Indeed it’s very much my driving mission — to redirect corrupted and wasteful tax funds towards better uses, and to help four year olds with cancer, and all the other variants of human pain.

It’s big biccies… The Abbott Government is setting up a 20 billion dollar medical research future fund, which is expected to distribute $1 billion to research annually by 2022-23. It’s being claimed it is the largest in the world (I am not entirely convinced, but nonetheless, it’s radically big). We currently spend about $800m a year on medical research, so this would really double it. (Spooky).

But I can feel the barbs of skeptical libertarians already — saying the money should have been used to pay off the debt or returned to the people who earned it — and I’m sympathetic. [...]

Human body parts made to order (Windpipes, and bionic ears made from 3D printers)

Australia could be leading the world in research that will save lives and earn money. Instead we lead the world in gullible obedience to an absurd scheme to change the weather.

Making human body parts from off-the-shelf or customized cells is a vast improvement on waiting for healthy people to die and donate, and a lifetime of immunosuppressants. Any delay in developing these techniques will surely cost lives and prolong disability. Those who do develop and patent these techniques are bound to profit and be able to afford even more research, and will improve national productivity as well as the quality of life. For those on waiting lists, spending $3billion on solar panels to stop storms and hold back the sea is the cruelest waste.

This type of medical work could make waiting lists for organ-donation a thing of the past. The political vanity of supporting useless causes for the sake of symbolism has a ghastly price.

Read about what this poor little girl and her family have had to go through. She is two, and had never been home or tasted food until last month. She has not been able to speak, but might possibly one day. This is [...]

The Stem Cell revolution: growing brain cells to repair damage

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This week in stem cell news one research group announced they’d accidentally figured out a way to easily convert human bone-marrow stem cells into brain cells which could in future repair spinal or brain damage.  Another group showed that if you happen to be a particular type of old mouse with memory problems, researchers can give you a transplant of stem cells that restore your learning and memoryand help you swim through water mazes faster. But seriously, these discoveries could help a lot of very needy people.

Meanwhile Australia, celebrated it’s one millionth roofing panel that provide expensive, irregular electricity.

Ladies and Gentlemen — there is a revolution going on, and it’s not the Green one. How much could $2 billion wasted dollars have achieved if it were spent wisely?

These two studies fit together quite well — the first shows it’s possible to use stem cells to restore brain function, the second suggests it might be easier to get the right stem cells than anyone thought.

Repairing damaged mouse brains

How’s this for odd, [...]